Most teenagers would hate being sent to a Catholic residential school. For 14-year-old Keith Sapsford, there was no choice but to run away after just a couple of weeks. Taking matters into his own hands, the Australian teen snuck onto the tarmac at Sydney Airport — and climbed into an airplane’s wheel compartment to hitch a ride to Japan.
Unfortunately, his desperate plan to leave Australia was unwittingly inspired by his own father. Just months earlier, Charles Sapsford had warned his adventurous son about a Spanish boy who died after hiding in a plane’s undercarriage. But in February 1970, his child met a tragically similar fate.
The teen was confident that he’d avoid the dangers of high-altitude exposure by staying inside the airplane’s wheel-well. But he was tragically unaware that the compartment would reopen when the plane’s wheels retracted. Shortly after liftoff, he fell 200 feet to his death.
This is his story — from teenage runaway to stowaway — and how his fate was immortalized in an infamous photo.